CONSERVATION FUNDING


Second thoughts of a Lolfery
Jonathan Hurst expresses an entirely personal view that there are two worrying aspects of the funding of historic building conservation.
The first is the total unreliability of pronouncements on English Heritage’s budget and highlights the summary of the proceedings of the AHF’s 20th Anniversary Conference: ‘Collaboration or conflict the preservation challenge’ last November in Manchester, where it was remarked in relation to BPTs (but where the comments could apply to any other eligible project):
“Cuts in English Heritage’s budget a cause of acute concern in England and wholly contrary to the government’s pledges about the National Lottery and ‘additionality’ mean that BPTs are being advised to look first to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), even though the two organisations’ eligibility criteria and grant conditions differ in a number of important respects”. The other is the extreme foolishness of becoming tied to a variable alternative source the Lottery.


‘Nobody knows if those making the handouts may not suddenly change
their policy with regard to historic
building
conservation’
First, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that the level of ‘handouts’ can be predicted accurately over the years into the future as the volatility of the ‘punters’ is completely unknown. Who can say that their level of
ticket buying will not be affected by changes in the football pools, the world economy or anti-gambling crusades.
Secondly, nobody knows if those making the handouts may not suddenly change their policy with regard to historic building conservation. This is exactly what has happened in New Zealand where an over-reliance on lottery handouts has caused disaster following an arbitrary change in policy.
The Journal Of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust reported in September 1996 under the heading ‘Heritage in crisis’ that “That need to co-ordinate the resourcing and managing of our heritage system has been underlined in recent days by the Lottery Environment and Heritage Committee’s decision to slash its grant to the Trust by almost a third. More ominously, Lotteries says it will not fund operating costs for Trust properties from 1998. Lotteries calls these costs a Crown responsibility. The Crown disagrees. The Trust, caught in the middle, is already struggling to make ends meet. Unless the Trust can find a dramatic and imaginative solution, properties acquired, conserved and managed through a mix of Trust, Crown and Lottery funds over the last thirty years, will be placed at risk.”
In March this year the Trust reported that “Lottery grants were reduced by more than $500,000. A cut of another half-million is forecast for 1997-98.”
The British lottery boards are vulnerable to political interference and abrupt changes in public opinion (which could follow, say, a medical epidemic or a natural calamity) and cannot be considered a suitably reliable source of finding.
Reliability of funding over lengthy periods is vital to undertake complex and difficult historic building repair programmes. The IHBC must make an enormous effort in lobbying, whatever the new government, to revert to sensible and reliable sources of funding for historic building conservation.
Context 54 June 1997